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US officials step up rhetoric on Russia link to email hacks

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Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence said on Sunday that evidence implicated Russia in recent email hacks tied to the Nov. 8 U.S. election, contradicting his running mate, Donald Trump, who has cast doubt on Russia’s involvement.

Pence’s comments came after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview that aired on Sunday that the United States would be sending a message to Russia “at the time of our choosing” about the email attacks. Obama administration officials initially refused to say if they thought Russia was behind the attacks, before accusing Moscow for the first time earlier this month.

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JULY 26

President Barack Obama said in an interview with NBC News that “anything’s possible” when asked if Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee. “What we do know is the Russians hack our systems, not just government systems, but private systems,” Obama said. “But what the motives were in terms of the leaks and all that, I can’t say directly, but what I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.”

JULY 28

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, speaking about the hack of the DNC emails, said the U.S. intelligence community was not ready to “make the call on attribution” as to who was responsible.

AUG. 15

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Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson offered state officials help from hacking threats or other possible election tampering, in the face of unsubstantiated allegations by Trump that the system is open to fraud.

SEPT. 7

Speaking at a conference in Washington, Clapper said that “the Russians hack our systems all the time,” but he did not officially blame them for the intrusions into Democratic Party organizations.

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SEPT. 20

During a live interview with the Washington Post, Clapper said Russia had a tradition of trying to interfere in elections in other countries. He added that his biggest concern was not that a foreign power would try to affect the outcome of the U.S. election but instead “cast doubt on the whole process.”

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OCT. 7

The U.S. government for the first time formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations.

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the Obama administration said in a statement.

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OCT. 16

Biden said in an interview with NBC News that the United States would send a “proportional” response to Russia for the hacking “at the time of our choosing and under the circumstances that have the greatest impact.”

(Reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)


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Elections 2016

Vietnamese women strive to clear war-era mines

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Inching across a field littered with Vietnam war-era bombs, Ngoc leads an all-women demining team clearing unexploded ordnance that has killed tens of thousands of people -- including her uncle.

"He died in an explosion. I was haunted by memories of him," Le Thi Bich Ngoc tells AFP as she oversees the controlled detonation of a cluster bomb found in a sealed-off site in central Quang Tri province.

More than 6.1 million hectares of land in Vietnam remain blanketed by unexploded munitions -- mainly dropped by US bombers -- decades after the war ended in 1975.

At least 40,000 Vietnamese have since died in related accidents. Victims are often farmers who accidentally trigger explosions, people salvaging scrap metal, or children who mistake bomblets for toys.

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Elections 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts issues New Year’s Eve warning to stand up for democracy

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In a progressive welcoming move, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his New Year's Eve annual report urging his fellow federal judges to stand up for democracy.

"In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," he wrote. "We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability."

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Trump’s next 100 days will dictate whether he can be re-elected or not — here’s why

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According to CNN pollster-in-residence Harry Enten, Donald Trump's next 100 days -- which could include an impeachment trial in the Senate -- will hold the key to whether he will remain president in 2020.

As Eten explains in a column for CNN, "His [Trump's] approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success. But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins."

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